- Associated Press - Thursday, August 24, 2017

What to watch in the leading soccer leagues in Europe this weekend:



Lionel Messi will have the spotlight all to himself this weekend in the Spanish league.

Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos, Barcelona striker Luis Suarez, and Atletico Madrid forward Antoine Griezmann will all miss the second round of matches.

Ronaldo and Ramos are both suspended for Madrid’s home match against Valencia on Sunday. Ronaldo is completing the second of a four-match ban for pushing a referee after he had sent him off during the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup. He also missed the second leg for the sending off.

Ramos is serving a one-match suspension for being booked twice in Madrid’s 3-0 win at Deportivo La Coruna in round one.

At Alaves on Saturday, Messi will lead a Barcelona side that is still reeling from the departure of Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain. Suarez is out with a right knee injury, and Andres Iniesta is trying to recover from a knee knock that has sidelined him for two matches.

Atletico will travel to Las Palmas on Saturday without Griezmann, who starts a two-match ban for using disrespectful language with a referee.

- By Joseph Wilson in Barcelona



Following 4-0 wins over West Ham and Swansea that have heightened expectation levels, Manchester United gets its first real test of the Premier League season when Leicester visits Old Trafford on Saturday.

Can Romelu Lukaku continue the electric start to his United career, which has seen him score in each of his first three competitive games? Will midfielder Paul Pogba again demonstrate the new-found clinical edge to his game, after goals in both of the opening league games? Can playmaker Henrikh Mkhitaryan add to his four assists so far?

Leicester, the surprise 2016 champion, arrives with three points after its 2-0 win over Brighton last weekend.

West Bromwich Albion and league newcomer Huddersfield are the other teams with two wins from two games and they play Stoke and Southampton, respectively.

The standout match is Liverpool’s home game against Arsenal, which has sought-after forward Alexis Sanchez available again after an abdominal injury.

- By Steve Douglas in Manchester



Fresh off a chastening loss to Liverpool in the Champions League playoffs, Hoffenheim returns to Bundesliga action seeking a second straight win to open the new campaign.

Hoffenheim started with a 1-0 home victory over Werder Bremen and next faces a trip to Bayer Leverkusen, which lost 3-1 at titleholder Bayern Munich in its first match.

Hoffenheim’s 30-year-old coach, Julian Nagelsmann, acknowledged his players were like “headless chickens” in the 4-2 loss at Liverpool on Wednesday, during which the German team was behind 3-0 after 21 minutes. He’ll be hoping there are no after-effects of the heavy loss.

Bayern visits Bremen, while Borussia Dortmund hosts Hertha Berlin.



There could be some animosity in the air when new Inter Milan coach Luciano Spalletti and sporting director Walter Sabatini visit their former club, Roma, on Saturday.

Roma’s Boston-based president James Pallotta has been critical of both men in a series of interviews recently, saying Spalletti was too sensitive in handling the media and that he clashed with Sabatini over personnel decisions.

Also this weekend, six-time defending champion Juventus visits Genoa, overhauled AC Milan hosts Cagliari and Napoli faces Atalanta fresh off its qualification for the Champions League.

- By Andrew Dampf in Rome



Neymar looks to continue his impressive start at Paris Saint-Germain when Saint-Etienne visits Parc des Princes on Sunday.

The Brazil forward has scored three goals since joining from Barcelona for a world record 220 million euros.

PSG, Saint-Etienne and defending champion Monaco have won their opening three games.

Monaco, which is still negotiating to sell teen star Kylian Mbappe to PSG, faces a tough home test against Marseille.

Luckily for Monaco, Radamel Falcao is in top form with five goals so far.

- By Jerome Pugmire


More AP soccer coverage: https://www.apnews.com/tag/apf-Soccer

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